Crowdfunding and the Hidden Digital Danger

Christine Blasey Ford listens to her attorney Michael Bromwich while testifying the Senate Judiciary Committee with in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington

In a September 2018 appearance on “CBS This Morning,” member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) opined that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had “nothing to gain” in stepping forward with allegations against Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

A few days later in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stated in the form of a question to the host a similar opinion.

“What in the h*** did she have to gain by doing this?” Durbin queried.

History suggests that there are a host of significant gains that may indeed be awaiting Ford. One has already surfaced via a digital platform. It arrived in the form of “crowdfunding,” i.e., the practice of financing a venture or cause by raising money from a large number of people utilizing specialized websites on the Internet.

Two crowdfunding accounts on the GoFundMe website, which were made on behalf of Ford, have raised approximately $740,000. For reasons unknown, at present the two GoFundMe accounts are no longer accepting donations.

The first GoFundMe account, labeled “Dr. Blasey’s security costs,” raised $210,000 in ten days. The GoFundMe campaign was created by a third party, a Georgetown law professor named Heidi Feldman, indicating that it was established “on behalf of the Ford family.” The campaign exceeded its initial goal of $175,000.

The account urged that donations be sent because of the following: “Due to death threats, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (who uses ‘Dr. Blasey’ professionally) and her family have had to leave their residence and arrange for private security.”

Feldman assured donors that she would “make arrangements to transfer funds to Dr. Blasey.”

The second GoFundMe account, labeled “Help Christine Blasey Ford,” was set up by “Team Christine Blasey Ford.” With an initial goal of $150,000, it raised approximately $530,000 in ten days. The GoFundMe description read, “The money raised from this campaign is going directly to the Ford Family.”

The subject of Ford’s crowdfunding came up during the Senate Judicial Committee hearing on Judge Kavanaugh, when Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questioned Ford about her polygraph and legal fees.

“I’m aware that there’s been several GoFundMe sites that I haven’t had a chance to figure out how to manage those, because I’ve never had one done for me,” Ford stated.

After Mitchell asked for clarification, Ford responded, “GoFundMe sites that have raised money, primarily for our security detail. So I’m not even quite sure how to collect that money or — and how to distribute it yet. I haven’t been able to focus on that.”

Interestingly, after Ford’s mere mention at the hearing of the GoFundMe sites, more than $200,000 in donations flowed in to the “Help Christine Blasey Ford” campaign, which was, according to the New York Times, “more money than it had gained in the past eight days.”

During the questioning regarding funds and fees, Michael Bromwich, one of Ford’s lawyers, interrupted the process and said, “I can help you with that. Both her co-counsel are doing this pro bono. We are not being paid and we have no expectation of being paid.”

Bromwich represented Andrew McCabe and reportedly assisted the former FBI official in using crowdfunding to pay for legal fees.

Soon after McCabe was fired from the FBI for making false statements to investigators about leaking information to the media, a GoFundMe page, titled “Friends of Andrew McCabe,” appeared on the site. In less than one month, approximately $538,000 was raised to help cover McCabe’s legal fees.

Bromwich’s K-Street firm, The Bromwich Group, set up the GoFundMe account. Bromwich served as Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management under former President Barak Obama. Prior to this position, he served as Inspector General of the Department of Justice under former President Bill Clinton.

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley recently expressed concern that crowdfunding may be being used in a manner that enables legal testimony to be purchased.

“You can buy a witness effectively by funding them as long as they’re saying the type of thing that you want them to say,” Turley cautioned.

The notion that money could potentially be used to purchase testimony from favorable witnesses poses a threat to a functioning legal system and the fundamental precepts of due process.

In the end, it is not merely about what an individual has to gain, but rather what our country and her people have to lose.

Advertisements